Franken Fran, Vols. 7-8

By Katsuhisa Kigitsu. Released in Japan by Akita Shoten, serialized in the magazine Champion Red. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Jocelyne Allen, Adapted by Shanti Whitesides.

More of everything. More outrageous humor, more appalling horror, more of the few sympathetic members of the cast having their lives destroyed in the worst way possible, more of the deeply horrible darkness that is humanity, and so many goddamn Sentinels that you’ll never want to watch sentai shows again. All of this is in the final omnibus of Franken Fran, where the author clearly knows things are wrapping up, and has therefore decided to make this Franken Fran’s Greatest hits. Which is fine, as that’s exactly what we read Franken Fran for. It’s over the top, it goes to far, it’s offensive but hilarious. And in the end you aren’t even sure if Fran is alive or dead.

Of course, sometimes things are moving a bit too fast. The author has a lot of stories to tell, and a limited number of pages in which to do so (he said in one afterword that he was forced to make one into a two-parter). The first story in the volume ends SO abruptly that I actually had to check to verify that we weren’t missing pages (and also gives us a bad end to another likable woman whose only crime is hanging around Fran too much, though like most of this ensemble cast she shows up right as rain again later). The art also seems a little messier than usual, as if it’s simply being drawn to too tight of a deadline. And sometimes the stories don’t really land – I admit that I’m sort of sick of the Sentinels, and didn’t need to see this much of their antics again.

The one story in here that stands out above all others – indeed, I suspect it to be the main reason fans clamored for this to be licensed in the first place – has Gavril hired to come to Fran and Veronica’s school and be a substitute teacher. We’ve seen teachers before who don’t act the part and dispense “real life” advice rather than platitudes, but Gavril takes this beyond eleven, telling guys the proper way to threaten rape on their fellow classmates, giving girls advice on how to get ahead in this world, and basically being the worst Great Teacher ever. Naturally, the kids all love her, mostly as, given that they’re in Franken Fran, the entire school is sort of deeply twisted to begin with. Other excellent chapters involve horror (Fran’s octopus specimen gets stolen, with amazingly dreadful results), humor (the continuing awfulness of every moment of Kuho’s life as a policewoman), or simply tragedy (the other best story in this volume, in which Veronica’s new friend at school takes agency against the adults who are gang-raping her in a particularly vengeful way).

The volume caps off with a dream sequence, after Fran is trapped on an ocean liner that sinks to the bottom of the sea. She dreams of the entire cast coming out to thank her for everything she’s done to them – sorry, I mean for them – over the years. Okita is in a human body, Kuho (and her clones) are happy, hell, even Veronica is briefly happy (so you can tell it’s a dream). And, like the first story in the volume, the ending is sort of ambiguous. Did Fran actually wake up and get rescued? Or is she just dreaming she’s back at the operating table? Franken Fran was a grand horror/comedy mess, and while I think it may have offended more people than it impressed, I always admired its moxie. I’ll miss it.

Franken Fran, Vols. 5-6

By Katsuhisa Kigitsu. Released in Japan by Akita Shoten, serialized in the magazine Champion Red. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Jocelyne Allen, Adapted by Shanti Whitesides.

One of the strengths of Franken Fran is how it can be both an anthology of one-off horror concepts and also have an increasingly diverse continuity to call on when it needs to. Sometimes this means that one chapter bleeds into the next, as with the actor who has Fran give him pheromones so he can have more personal magnetism, followed by his co-star getting surgery so that she looks like a shoujo manga cover. Sometimes it’s building on previous volumes, as with the increasingly bizarre and over the top stories of the superhero Sentinel and his many knockoff imitators. And sometimes it uses the regular cast of Franken Fran, as when Fran tries to stop the horror that is her sister Gavril by unleashing a never ending army of Kuho clones, which Fran apparently decides to do for no reason other than to show us how hilariously awful Kuho’s life is.


I mentioned Gavril, and there’s no question she’s one of the best things about this volume, as well as possibly the most popular character in North American fandom. Fran saves lives as a doctor but has morals and ethics that make no sense to us whatsoever; Veronica has a moral and ethical sense, but is a killing machine. Combine the two in the worst way and you get Gavril, who loves slaughtering for its own sake, and has a deep desire to kill off Fran. I was wondering how Seven Seas would translate her initial chapter, and readers who may have read the source via other means may rest assured that in this official volume Gavril’s potty mouth is present and correct. With a heap of four and five-letter swears, appalling violent carnage, and walking around with her top unzipped, Gavril is a walking M rating. (Franken Fran is still rated OT by Seven Seaas, in case you wondered.)

Franken Fran’s bread and butter is still its horror and humor, though, and both combine well here provided that you don’t try to sympathize with anyone involved. Several times in this book Fran is overwhelmed with emotion at what she considers to be a touching, tragic story (even when it isn’t), and manages to make it even worse. She is helped out a great deal by her clients, many of whom are horrible examples of humanity. Franken Fran shows us the seedy underbelly of human desires, and the greed, lust, and desire for power within so many people. If your amusement park is filled with mascots that will immediately kill once they stop hearing music… well, that fits in perfectly with the amusement park aesthetic! This volume doesn’t have as many moments when I laughed out loud, but it has many, many moments when I put my hand to my mouth and went “Oh my god.” It’s that kind of series. If you don’t mind horror (and be warned, the cockroaches make a return here) and love twisted humor, Franken Fran remains a must reda.

Franken Fran, Vols. 3-4

By Katsuhisa Kigitsu. Released in Japan by Akita Shoten, serialized in the magazine Champion Red. Released in North America by Seven Seas.

Franken Fran has many grotesque, nasty images throughout. There’s blood, gore, other bodily fluids, and truly disgusting things being done to the human body. And yet the most terrifying thing in the entire series is easily Fran herself, who is quite simply impossible to understand or empathize with, and whose concept of what life is does not remotely cross over with the majority of humanity. Fran is simply a force of nature, and this omnibus shows us several times when your jaw drops at what she carries out. Oddly enough, it’s Veronica, her sister the assassin who was introduced at the end of the last book, who ends up being the voice of sanity in the series (as well as the straight man).


This is not to say that Veronica is a good guy, of course. In one of the more touching chapters in this book, Veronica and walking organ bank Adorea go to a high school undercover to, theoretically, give Veronica “social skills”. (The fact that Fran is the one who says she doesn’t have these is one of the best jokes in the book.) Of course, veronica is a small, sullen, scarred girl, so naturally she proceeds to get bullies to hell and back, with only one other girl nice enough to be friends with her. And then, of course, everything goes even MORE horribly wrong, as we discover a slavery ring and Veronica has to clean house and chop up a few bad guys. If this were a normal, non-funny thriller series, Veronica might be the anti-hero.

And of course there are the plots of the chapters themselves. Franken Fran is to a large degree an anthology horror series, with Fran and her occasional cast dealing with tragic young love, evil matriarchs seeking immortality, and of course at least two chapters dealing with bugs, which are absolutely not for the squeamish. There’s even a cameo by a certain cult religious deity. The two best chapters in the book are two of the most touching (note that I’m defining touching in the venue of Franken Fran, not beyond it) – in one, a suicidal young man who changes his mind is given new life as a children’s mascot, and crosses paths with a young girl who’s being abused by her father. In the other, a young girl’s dog is killed by a truck, and it’s Fran to the rescue, though her new dog is, shall we say, not what you’d expect. The series even mocks itself by having a Hollywood movie made out of the latter chapter, with dire consequences. (“The bestiality was a nice touch.”)

In the end, Franken Fran is about the stories. They won’t make you feel good, they may gross you out, and one or two of them may give you nightmares. But they’re all stories that stay in your head. And Fran, being a protagonist (I refuse to call her a heroine) who is our guide through this twisted world, is just as memorable.